Working paper 07/180 - Abstract

Maternal Employment and Overweight Children: Does Timing Matter? (PDF, 226kB)

Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder

Winner of the student paper prize awarded at the 6th iHEA World Congress, Copenhagen, Denmark 8-11th July 2007

Recent literature has shown consistent evidence of a positive relationship between maternal employment and children’s excess body weight. These studies have largely focused on the effect of average weekly work hours over the child’s life on its overweight status. The aim of this paper is to explore the importance of the timing of employment. Timing of maternal absences has been shown to matter for child cognitive and behavioral outcomes. This paper explores whether this timing effect also exists with respect to children’s excess body weight. Data on a nationally representative British birth cohort are used to examine this, permitting a detailed exploration of the potential endogeneity of mother’s employment. The results show a significant positive correlation between full-time maternal employment during midchildhood and the probability of being overweight at age 16. There is no evidence that part-time or fulltime employment at earlier or later ages leads to a higher probability of being overweight at age 16. Subgroup analysis suggests this effect is driven by lower socio-economic groups. Various econometric techniques are used to explore whether employed mothers are systematically different from nonemployed mothers, but there is no evidence that this unobserved heterogeneity biases the estimates.

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